Tag Archives: East Meets [South] West Coast Dinner

And, just like that.

I’m back!

mex choc cake

Please forgive my absence. To put it in perspective, it took me two days to finish this article. It’s short, I know. I have no excuse, other than that I got too busy. I’m fully aware of the irony of that statement.

For what it’s worth, it once took me over a month to finish an article from The New Yorker on procrastination.

This will seem all the more appropriate when I tell you that I began to write this post back in February, when I was recapping one of the many dinners that I had hosted.

It was months ago, and, had I gotten around to writing this when I originally planned, I would have regaled you with stories of wandering around midtown Manhattan with some colleagues trying to find a place to buy lottery tickets. It was one of the largest jackpots in New York history, or at least that’s what the news was saying.

Did we think we would win? Probably not, although it should be noted that there’s something to be said to surrendering one’s self to any sort of possibility, however far fetched. Even I got caught up in the frenzy. A first for me—when I was younger, I was always the killjoy at the bodega, opting out of lottery tickets in favor of violets.

I know, I sound like a bit of a killjoy here, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve won plenty. The short list includes:

  • Camper of the year (Twice. I’m still flummoxed by that one)

  • several bottles of wine

  • $100 from FreshDirect

  • Another $100 from the Boston Chamber of Commerce

  • a book about women’s lives.

There was an award associated with the last one, although I’m fairly certain that, as with the rest of the cases mentioned above, luck played a great part. Well, luck and having some not so busy moments at various jobs when I could fill out surveys.

Still, winning seems to be missing the point. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that not everything can be a victory. Not every cake can be a celebratory one, with craters of butter cream and fondant (although once it cools down again, I may have a new dinner party project). When it came to the lottery, I didn’t stand a chance.

And, when it comes to cake, lately I prefer this one. It’s a workhorse of a cake, by which I mean that there’s really no occasion for which it’s not suited. It’s versatile enough that you can eat it for breakfast. But, with the right company, and a scoop of just the rice kind of ice cream, it makes any dinner special. Just the thing as my days become more manic. Turns out, I’m not busy so much as overly ambitious. Here’s to hoping I’ll be able to focus some of that ambition to this corner of the internet.

Mexican Spiced Chocolate Cake
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Natural Cocoa Powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour an 8″ round cake pan.

Cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Then, add the buttermilk and vanilla. Sift in the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, chipotle, baking soda, and salt into your creamed sugar mixture. Stir until everything is well incorporated.

Pour batter into your pan, and bake it for approximately 50 minutes. When your cake is fully cooked a tester placed in the center will come out clean. Cook the cake for 10-15 minutes before removing it from the pan.

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The Apotheosis of Arrogance

I’ll say this: it takes a certain kind of person to see a recipe from a well respected pastry chef and think, I can do that better.

sweet potato ice cream

Probably the same sort of person who goes to a bakery to buy ingredients for the sole purpose of recreating their recipe or goes through the trouble of making homemade marshmallows. (Sorry, folks, there will be no recap for that one. Just a statement: it’s an even sticker process that you think.)

There are names for people like me, none of them flattering.

In my defense, by better I meant better suited for a very specific dinner party I was hosting. In this case, I was looking for something that combined the flavors of Mexico and Japan. No small feat, until I was flipping though The Perfect Scoop. Then, inspiration: Sweet Potato Ice Cream.

While I can’t claim that my version of sweet potato ice cream was better than the original, it certainly did a good job of hitting all the right notes. Plus, it went really well with Mexican Chocolate Cake. I’ll share that recipe soon. I promise.

Naturally by soon, I mean sometime within the next year.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Adapted, very generously from The Perfect Scoop

The most notable adaptations I made here were roasting the potatoes, first, to help deepen the flavor, and omitting the pecans. I’m sure they would be lovely, and, in fact, that version might make it onto my Thanksgiving table.

1 pound sweet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Piece the sweet potatoes, and roast for 45 minutes, until they are soft. Allow them to cool and then remove the flesh from the skins.

Pour the heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt into a blender, and puree until the mixture is smooth. Add lemon juice to taste. Press the mixture into a strainer to remove any pulp.

Chill the mixture, then freeze it in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Freeze until ready to serve.

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I cannot make it cohere*

If you were to go through the archives, I suspect I would find easily ten different posts all about how my intentions were good and the follow-though, well, lacking.

I can’t help myself.

February didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts for various reasons, including, but not limited to being seriously sick, and who wants to hear about that? Two weeks ago, I got into work only to turn around two hours later—just enough time to get everything in order so that I could work from my apartment. I was back in the office the next day out of necessity, and the long days that followed didn’t help much either. I made power points and pretty things, I wrote pitches. But, each time that I started to write something here, it didn’t quite gel.

The thing is, things are busy, and they’re not likely to change any time soon. I’m searching for a connection here. Maybe it’s my need to present things in a cohesive narrative. What can I say? I’ve been busy. Here are some recipes?

That hardly seems inspiring.

I’ve been cooking a lot—over the weekend, a friend came over for a long over due catch-up. Dinner consisted of red wine, salted caramel ice cream and home made hot fudge. Before then, there was a dinner party for another friend’s birthday. I didn’t get pictures there, although, let’s be honest, my photography skills still need some work. I want to tell you about all of these things. And, the stew that’s currently bubbling away on the stove as I get ready to tackle a shortened work-week.

I’ll get to them in due time. Just bear with me.

Until then, I’ve been busy. Here are some recipes.

Chicken Tacos
Half recipe of Roasted Tomato-Chile de arbol salsa (recipe follows)
1 roasting chicken, 5-6 lbs
1 TBS kosher salt
1 TBS freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and pat the chicken dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, then lower the heat to 350 and roast for another hour, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooled slightly, remove the skin and, using two forks or your hands, pull the meat from the bones. Save the carcass for stock.

Combine the pulled chicken with the roasted tomato salsa. Serve with salsa cruda (recipe follows), guacamole

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Recipe courtesy of Simple Food, Big Flavor

4 plum tomatoes
3-6 chiles de arbol (vary to suit your taste)
2 TBS olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your broiler.

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and cook them, about 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are charred. Set the tomatoes aside to cool. Once the tomatoes have cooled, slip off the skins and remove the cores. Place the tomatoes and all of the juice into a large bowl and roughly chop them.

While the tomatoes are cooling, in a separate dry skillet, heat the chiles de arbol, toasting them until they begin to smoke, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic to the pan, setting it over medium heat and stirring until the onion is soft. This should take approximately 7 minutes. Add the chiles, tomatoes, and water, bringing it to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes, then let it cool.

When the mixture is room temperature, add it to a blender, along with the cilantro, salt, and pepper. Puree it until the mixture is smooth. Then, run it through a fine mesh strainer so that it is smooth. Serve it at room temperature.

Salsa Cruda
Use this recipe as a guideline, altering ingredients to your taste

1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cilantro, minced

Mix all ingredients together and allow to sit 30 minutes prior to serving, allowing all flavors to meld.

*with apologies to Ezra Pound

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Filed under Etc., Meat

Guest Post: A Visit from the Pacific Northwest

After months of telling you how busy I’ve been and that it’s been a challenge to find time to write, I’ve taken to outsourcing my posts.

Ok, fine, that’s not quite true. Here’s what is: when my friend Jared proposed that we host a dinner party together, I proposed that he write something here. Shockingly he said yes. I’ll admit that, after confessing about my quirks in the kitchen (namely, my epic emails with menu plans and inability to give up even an inch of space, I was worried he would expose me as the crazy person I am. Instead, as he’s pointed out, he visited, we cooked, we ate well, and all was right with the world. what follows are his musings and recipes.

No one is more pleased that me, not least because Jared left me with a huge tub of miso and I can now make his miso cod which was, by far, one of the best cod dishes I’ve ever had the privileged of eating. It’s not quite the same has having him cook it for me, while he insisted that I drink my beer, but it’ll have to do.

Take note, too, of the first photo featured, taken my my friend Mark—which explains why it actually looks good. You’ll notice in the recap posts from this series that there aren’t many photos—we were too busy catching up to be bothered with such things—the few that he good did the food justice. And, now, onto the post:

What does a great visit to NY look like? For me, it’s not just experiencing the bright lights of the big city, but rather seeing how the people I care about interact with those bright lights and myriad buildings; it’s about connecting with friends in a way phone, email and third-hand conjecture doesn’t do justice. Having moved away from NY 7 years ago, what I like most about NY is seeing my friends’ love of the city and trying to grab whatever reflection I can from their interactions with a place that carries such a strong sense of place.

During this last visit I was able to share in a remarkable amount of those moments, doing some of the things I used to do with friends when I lived in NY and seeing the things they now do since I left. One of the things in that latter category was dinner at Hillary’s, something I’d only previously experienced as a reader. And so it was that I invited myself over with an offer to cook.

A few notable hitches up front:

  • I’m pretty sure Hillary had never tasted anything I’ve ever cooked. Ever. Was she really about to hand over her kitchen?
  • I don’t eat meat

Add the fact that I’m not what you would call a “planner” and that I’m used to a kitchen best described as suburban in size and this was going to go off like gangbusters. Obviously I played down any concerns to Hillary; I just told her it would all work itself out and then I promptly proceeded to avoid the first two of Hillary’s tips for a successful hosting. Luckily, I’ve found you can compensate with the final remaining four: drinks, assistance, focus on fun, and drinks.

In this case, I knew I also had a few tricks up my sleeve:

  • I figured my friends rarely ate home cooked Asian food, so I had novelty on my side
  • I cook dinner for an omnivore virtually every night—as they say, “practice makes edible”
  • Backup plan: restaurants are open late in NY No fear

As it turned out, everything was delicious, Hillary’s apartment is still standing and she’s still talking to me.

Success!

Now on to the recipes—

Miso Glazed Cod

We used these in the tacos, but they’re great over a bowl of sushi rice, too. I consider all the ingredients pretty much to taste—if you like the marinade, you’ll probably like the finished product.

Soy sauce
Grated fresh ginger
Garlic paste
Cayenne pepper
Miso paste
A white fish like cod
Olive oil, Salt, Pepper
Green Onion
Lemon
Sake (optional)

Combine soy sauce, ginger, garlic, a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix in a few tbsps miso paste until the marinade thickens up—I find it easiest to use a whisk. Toss the fish in the marinade and let sit for 30 min.

Heat a few tbsps oil over med heat in a wide shallow pan. Drop in the fish and let it cook—try not to play around with it too much. Once it has a little color on the cooking side, about 5 mins, flip it over—it’s done when it starts to flake. Toss in some chopped green onion and squeeze in a bit of lemon just before removing from the heat, then add a bunch more when plating.

Cabbage Slaw

I don’t remember everything I put in the slaw and I never make it the same way twice, but the basics are red cabbage and rice wine vinegar (red wine vinegar will work as well). I usually add mirin, whatever citrus juice is around, and if I add anything else I just start playing around with other ingredients I think will taste ‘fresh.’ For those who feel slaw must have some creaminess, feel free to add a tsp of mayo, but if you’re serving it with the cod you’ll want to keep it fairly runny/vinegary. Either way, salt and pepper to taste.

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Filed under Fish, Vegetables

One more confession

In my previous post I confessed of a tendency to plan elaborate events the minute I’ve had a drink. I’d like to think that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s lead to some great events.

This next confession: far less charming. When it comes to sharing, where my kitchen is concerned, I’m firmly in the does not play well with others category. Mostly, what it comes down to is that I’m a control freak, plain and simple. When I’m hosting, I typically have a clear vision of the menu in mind—infused vodka!, rainbow cakes!—most of the time, it’s about the challenge. Think Dinner Impossible: The home version where nothing is camera ready.

All of which is to say that when my friend Jared was visiting from Seattle and suggested we host a dinner together, I’m fairly certain he had no idea what he was getting into.

Here’s how the planning went down:

Jared mentioned Asian inspired dishes.
I came back with the idea of Asian and Mexican fusion… Because I had an event title that I thought would be funny.
I started highlighting recipes. Jared told me I should relax. Things would come together, and we could just have someone bring dessert. I started looking for dessert recipes with a vengeance, ultimately settling on sweet potato ice cream. If Jared thought this was odd, he did not say so. I sent a suggested menu plan. Jared told me he would take care of everything, and he figured that I could just relax and drink a beer while he cooked. I sighed. One of our mutual friends, upon hearing this, guffawed. I bought groceries. Jared bought groceries.
We cooked in the same kitchen. At the same time. No small feat, given that my kitchen is generously 10′ x 10′.

And, everything did come together, and, I did have a beer while Jared cooked, in case you were wondering. But I finished about a third before getting back to my own cooking because, after all, I had a standard to maintain.

Here’s the menu:

The East Meets [South] West Coast Dinner

Salsa Cruda
Guacamole
Roasted Tomato Salsa

Chicken Tacos
Miso Glazed Cod Tacos

Stewed Black Beans (this recipe, but with half of the beans blended for better texture)
Lime Rice
Pickled Watermelon Radishes
Red Cabbage Slaw

Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Spiced Chocolate Cake

Stay tuned for a flurry of recaps.

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